Jessica White Explains Scrivener! A Guest Post

A few weeks ago 10 Minute Novelist Jessica White hosted a Facebook chat where she explained the ins and outs of Scrivener.  Scrivener is a fantastic app that allows novelists to stay organized while they are drafting. But it’s complicated. These are Jessica’s notes for that chat. Hope it helps you as you struggle to master Scrivener!

Jessica White Explains Scrivener

The hardest part about learning to use Scrivener is the learning curve on what things are called and where to find them not using them.

You can download the cheat sheet for your version of Scrivener here.

First you need to understand there are three parts to the main screen:

Jessica White Explains Scrivener

The BINDER on the left keeps track of all your work and lets you rearrange and organize it. 

The EDITOR in the middle is where you will do all your writing.

The INSPECTOR on the right lets you shortcut to several other features, like the notecards, research, keywords, and snapshot (at the bottom of it you’ll see the little notepad, books, key, etc).

In Scrivener you will do 90% of your work in the main Editor panel.  There are three VIEWS and each has a function that you need as a writer.

In DOCUMENT view you do your writing.  It looks pretty much like Word or Pages.

Jessica White Explains Scrivener

In CORKBOARD view you do your plotting. Think of it as an index card or sticky note you put on the front of each section. You can use them to summarize plot points or to layout scenes. You can also label and mark them (more about this in P8) to keep track of things like point of view, what draft you’re on, timelines, etc.

In DOCUMENT view you do your writing.  It looks pretty much like Word or Pages.

In OUTLINE view you see all the big picture stuff like organization, status, word count, how far you are on your target word count, and lots more.

In DOCUMENT view you do your writing.  It looks pretty much like Word or Pages.

If you’ve never written a book in Scrivener I highly recommend you download KM Weiland’s template.  You can delete what you don’t use to simplify the look, but she really does give you all the pieces and parts, making it a great way to learn what Scrivener can do and how to set up a binder.

If you want to start from scratch that’s fine too.  Use the basic novel template Scrivener offers, and then use the BINDER feature and create a basic set up just like you would an outline using the ADD button at the top.

Two options I’d suggest:

Folders for Beginning, Middle, End (Acts 1, 2, 3) and text files for chapters (if you are a plotter this works well)


Folders for Chapters and then use the text files for scenes (this allows you pantsers to write scenes and move them around before committing to a chapter and stringing them all together).

How to take a SNAPSHOT.

  You ever have a scene where you felt it needed a rework, spent an hour doing the rework only to decide that you liked the original better?  This is where snapshot comes in. 

You can either go up to Documents—Snapshots—Take Snapshot OR there is a little camera down in the lower right corner of the inspector.

Take a snapshot of your text before you start editing, and if you decide to revert all you have to do is go up to Documents—Snapshot—Show Snapshots to see the original in the Inspector.  You can then see them side by side and ROLL BACK to a prior version or you can copy/paste parts of it.



Under Project—Project Targets, you can set up both the full document targets and the session target (useful if you want to write a minimum words/day). 

Scrivener automatically tracks word count for every text file and each folder.  You can see it down at the bottom of the screen. 

You can also go to the OUTLINE view and go up to View—Outliner Column—and add Total Word Count, then you can see all the totals for any folder (or the binder) on one page.  This allows you to make sure your chapters are fairly balanced and to see where you need to focus your effort.

LABELS and STATUS feature is on the right hand side in the middle of the Inspector under GENERAL META-DATA. 

You can use them for almost anything.  Keep track of what phase of writing you are in (rough/final).  Keep track of POV, timeline, etc.  You can color code your folders and files, the corkboard index cards and also have it show up in SYNOPSIS on the right hand side (which is the index card in miniature).

Go to View—Use Label Color In— and you can add to any screen. 
To change the colors and label names go to Project—Metadata Settings and double click the name to change.



SPLIT VIEW can be found in the upper right of the editor box.  You can split vertically or horizontally and have side by side screens so you can see two things at once.  This is really useful when you want to see your research and your chapter at the same time.


FULLSCREEN is the black button with the arrows on the toolbar.  This lets you block out everything but the scene or chapter you are working on.  You can even add a background to help you stay in scene.


RESEARCH- Did you know you can download webpages (including videos), upload pictures, and PDF’s right into Scrivener so you don’t have to go back and forth between programs?  Just use the ADD button pulldown menu and look toward the bottom. You can add webpages or files. 


This website goes into great detail about how to make the most of Scrivener’s ability to put multiple forms of media together.

IMPORT/EXPORT– There is so much to say about these two features.  If you to go to Youtube and enter the formats you are trying to import/export, there will be step by step instructions for any combination. Whether you are importing a PDF and want to turn it to text or you want to export text files to mobi.  Scrivener lets you make ebooks, html, pdf, text and so many more formats and import them too.

I will mention one trick. Before uploading a WIP putting a # in front of chapters allows you to create a text file for each chapter. Just make sure you use the option IMPORT and SPLIT.

MORE GREAT RESOURCES: (this has a playlist feature there are dozens of videos pick one each day to listen to and play around in Scrivener with to learn).





Tricks How to change the default font:
10 Little Secrets

You can buy Scrivener here:


Jessica White
Jessica White

Jessica White is an admin for the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group. Her book Surviving the Stillness came out last year. She blogs at She lives with her family in the Dallas, Texas metro area.

Katharine Grubb has mastered the art of freewriting because she wrote her first novel in 10 minute increments. There are probably easier ways to write a book, but with homeschooling her five children, she’ll take what she can get. Her latest book, Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day was just released and is available on She lives in Massachusetts and blogs at


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